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Sunday, May 22, 2011

Writers remember Randy Levine glee beating then fine and well-liked Yankee pitcher Chien-Ming Wang in arbitration

Feb. 17, 2008, "Buscema: Yanks gloat now, regret later?" Dave Buscema, Times Herald Record
  • Wang defeat ($600,000) in arbitration Yankee omen
Tampa, "Finally, the Yankees have something to celebrate after one of the roughest offseasons in club history.

Finally, after a winter filled with losses — from the bitter departure of a legendary manager to the reputations of a pair of iconic pitchers — the Yankees notched a win so significant team president Randy Levine dashed off

  • a crowing press release the moment it had been recorded.

Even though the victory came against the team's own pitcher, Chien-Ming Wang.

In an arbitration case both sides could have avoided.

You can't make this stuff up.

Especially when it comes from the mind of Levine, who provided the latest example of how the proudest franchise in sports can look so

  • utterly shameless lately.

"It was a little disappointing, that's all," Wang's agent, Alan Nero, said of the bizarre release announcing the Yankees were "gratified and happy to prevail in this arbitration hearing" against a pitcher who is pivotal to their ability to win on the field. "The whole (arbitration) process is not something anyone should be proud of."

Who was to blame for the failure to split a $600,000 difference can be debated — as it was by Nero and GM Brian Cashman in interviews with the Times Herald-Record.

Either way, most arbitration cases are settled so a club doesn't have to go through the unseemly process of attacking its own player in a hearing that he attends.

So it certainly isn't something that should be boasted about. Such bragging could not only make players in the Yankees' clubhouse roll their eyes — it could eventually make free agents scratch their heads a little more about coming here.

Is that likely? Of course not. But if times change and winning is harder to come by, these types of moments — along with all those lovely Hank Steinbrenner sound bytes — could eventually matter.

A checkbook alone will not solve that problem — just ask teams like the Orioles, who couldn't counter their egotistical owner, Peter Angelos, in the late '90s, even when he was trying to throw cash away.

And with a slew of young prospects the Yankees are banking on for the present and future the Yankees might want to stop setting precedents of challenging their best players to fight for every dime.

Especially since they usually end up paying more later anyway.

Wang, thanks to his robotic ability to focus, should "be fine" as Mariano Rivera said — even though the closer remembered his own arbitration hearing as "not fun."

And Wang said he would ignore the Yankees' arbitration complaints that he didn't strike out enough people and "stay the same." That's good

  • since his game is getting doubleplays.

But one Yankee player said eventually this type of classless move by Levine "could tick someone off" and you could lose the player.

Again, you can debate whose fault it was the Yankees even ended up in arbitration with Wang over a mere $600,000, paying him $4 million instead of $4.6.

Nero said he would have accepted $4.3 million or a little less. Cashman said that offer was made only at the last minute after three counterproposals had been turned down and they paid legal fees to go to arbitration.

"By that time, it was too late," said Cashman, who insisted, "We didn't want to be in this thing."

Said Nero: "The whole process was very disappointing. The effort on their part was minimal at best."

Such disagreements surely led to Levine's gloating, which sounded like one of the confetti-laced

  • statements the Yankees used to reserve for World Series titles around here.

And added to the list of classless moves he's made that have turned off Yankees fans.

Last fall, he alienated fans as the face of the Joe Torre debacle.

Nearly four years ago, he alienated anyone with a working heartbeat and common sense when he called for the Devil Rays to forfeit a game because "¦

They were late due to travel problems caused by a hurricane.

Classy.

In any case, maybe Levine just got a little too excited about the prospect of the Yankees accomplishing something they hadn't done since 2000, the last time they went to arbitration.

Maybe he just needed someone to remind him he shouldn't confuse that victory with the Yankees' last World Series win, which came that same year."

  • ------------------------------------------------------------------

List of people it took to beat Chien-Ming Wang out of $600,000 including 3 people from the commissioner's office:

""We are gratified and happy to have prevailed in this arbitration hearing," Yankees president Randy Levine said in a statement. "It is important to recognize and thank our entire team for their hard work throughout this process, including

  • Brian Cashman,
  • Jean Afterman and
  • Mike Fishman from the Yankees,
  • Rich Rabin,
  • Ken Shaitelman and
  • Kelly Brown from Akin Gump Strauss Hauer and Feld, and
  • Dan Halem and
  • Paul Mifsud from the Commissioner's Office."
...The Taiwanese right-hander was awarded a 2008 salary of $4 million instead of his request of $4.6 million in a decision by arbitrators
  • Stephen Goldberg,
  • Jack Clarke and
  • Christine Knowlton,
who heard the case on Thursday in St. Petersburg at the Renaissance Vinoy Resort and Golf Club."
  • ------------------------------------------------------------------
Reference SI.com article by Jon Heyman, "Howard v Phillies," 2/20/08 (Wang story on p.2)
  • Heyman notes Wang's representatives didn't have their arguments lined up. Noted for the record but a separate issue.
  • ---------------------------------------------------------------
Yankees "partied like it was 1996" after beating Wang out of $600,00 (Collins, Times-Tribune) Chien-Ming Wang- "The most disrespected person in sports." ..."So here’s to New York Yankees right-hander Chien-Ming Wang. The most disrespected person in sports. Maybe, you’ll come to realize, the most disrespected person ever. Take these snippets from a celebratory statement sent out Friday by the president of the Yankees, the insufferable Randy Levine.
  • “We are gratified and happy to have prevailed in this arbitration hearing ...”
Well, congratulations to you and the entire Yankees organization, Randy. If you can’t beat Boston or Cleveland in the playoffs in October, then by all means, beat Chien-Ming Wang in a hearing in February.
  • “It is important to recognize and thank our entire team for their hard work throughout this process, including ...”
Little known fact, but if Levine ever wins an Academy Award for best supporting role in a salary arbitration, this is going to be the first line in the acceptance speech.
  • Since available copy inches are precious in this newspaper, I’ll spare you Levine’s thank-you list. Let’s just say it included the requisite number of role players a middling organization would need to chop down a mighty 27-year-old Taiwanese pitcher: Three Yankees front-office types, bigwigs from the Commissioner’s office and a handful of attorneys from the firm of Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer and Feld, LLP — who, we can assume, weren’t working the case pro bono.
“It has been nearly eight years since this organization has gone to arbitration, and we do not pursue this process lightly. The Yankees only go to arbitration when we think the player and agent’s demand is over the proper market.”
  • The Yankees offered Wang a $4 million contract to avoid arbitration. Wang countered with $4.6 million.
When they have a pitcher who has won and worked as Wang has, most teams would kick in the extra 300 grand and call it even. Not the New York Yankees, though.
  • Thank goodness we can still count on someone in this country for fiscal responsibility. Make a budget and stick to it. Always been the Yankee Way.
We want to congratulate Mr. Wang and his representatives on their efforts. They did a credible job. It should be noted that the $4 million figure which we submitted is the highest arbitration award ever for a first-time arbitration-eligible starting pitcher.”
  • At least Levine is sportsman-enough to shake an opponent’s hand and let bygones be bygones after a tough, sweaty arbitration hearing.
But he’s playing fast and loose with his numbers.
  • While the $4 million might be the most ever awarded by an arbiter, it’s not the most ever given to a first-year arbitration-eligible player. Dontrelle Willis got $4.35 million in 2006. And he hasn’t had two seasons in his career as good as the last two for Wang.
“Therefore, this should not be viewed as ‘a loss’ for Chien-Ming Wang. He is a valuable member of our team and we felt that we had reflected this in our filing number.”
  • The last part may be true, but I wonder about the first part.
This is an organization so irresponsibl(e) with cash that Carl Pavano is still collecting it from them. This is the organization that gave Yankees fans the brutal last years of Kevin Brown and Randy Johnson, heaped cash on Jason Giambi and Jaret Wright and Steve Karsay, with little positive return. And now, they’re going to celebrate saving 600 grand on a guy who has done nothing but win for them?
  • It’s disgraceful.
Then again, they have to scrape up that extra cash to pay Akin Gump Strauss Hauer and Feld from somewhere."

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